The Giants went toe-to-toe with the Vikings this week before Greg Joseph sealed the 27-24 Minnesota victory, putting an end to Giants fans’ hopes of clinching a playoff berth with two games remaining. Here are five things that stood out:
Prior to Sunday’s matchup, both the Vikings (10) and the Giants (8) had combined for a total of 18 wins by one score, so it was written in the stars that this week’s encounter would end in the same way. By virtue of Greg Joseph’s 61-yard field goal, the Vikings now have 11 wins, the most one-possession wins in NFL history, only a week after they claimed the biggest comeback win record.
Admittedly, being in close games is something that has benefited the Giants this season, with our record in such games now 8-3-1, but with the personnel that we currently have on the roster, it’s not a sustainable model for success. The Giants have only been in three games that were not decided by a single score: losses to Seattle, Detroit, and Philadelphia.
Even more concerning is the fact the Giants haven’t scored more than 30 points this season and haven’t been over 25 since their trip to London. The last game in which the Giants scored more than 30 and won was a 41-35 overtime win against the then-Washington Redskins in December 2019.
Good But Not Quite Enough
The most frustrating part of the loss to the Vikings was that for most of the game, the Giants not only proved that they were deserving of their record but that, for the most part, they were an equal competitor. The stat line after the game showed that the Giants not only outgained their opponents, 445-353, but they also matched their first down total of 23 as well. The issue was a series of miscues that likely prevented the Giants from walking away with the win.
The Giants lost the turnover battle 2-0, with the usually reliable rookie Daniel Bellinger losing a fumble late in the first quarter and Daniel Jones throwing an interception to Patrick Peterson early in the fourth. There was also a blocked punt that set up the Vikings deep in the Giants’ territory, a series of penalties on both sides of the ball, and two drops in the fourth quarter by Richie James, one of which killed a drive and forced the Giants to settle for a field goal.
The State of the Receivers
It’s no secret that the Giants’ wide receiver group has struggled this year. Kenny Golladay, who accounts for 10% of the Giants’ total salary cap, is currently sitting at 51 yards for the season, while Isaiah Hodgins, who is our third-lowest-paid player, has 350 despite playing one less game. Astoundingly, yesterday’s starting trio of Darius Slayton, Richie James Jr., and the aforementioned Hodgins account for a combined 2.5 million dollars, which is less than Jahan Dotson’s or Chris Olave’s rookie contracts.
Despite this, the three managed to combine for 258 yards on 26 targets, easily the best performance from the Giants’ starting wide receivers this season. Hodgins, who was previously on the Bills practise squad, was outstanding once again, finishing the game with another touchdown and likely the highlight moment for the offence with his full-stretch catch. Slayton made the most of his limited targets, converting one short pass for 32 yards and setting up Saquon Barkley’s late touchdown, and James, despite his drops, still finished with a team-leading 90 yards on eight catches.
Improving Defensive Line
As part of a continuing trend, the Giants’ defensive front was able to generate almost consistent pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins thanks to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz schemes. Obviously, this can prove to be a double-edged sword, which the Vikings were able to take advantage of late in the game, but with the Giants’ defensive backfield as weak as it is, it’s a risk worth taking.
This week, the Giants’ defenders were able to spread the load as Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari, Oshane Ximines, Jaylon Smith, and Landon Collins all recorded sacks. However, one huge contributor to this recent resurgence has been the return of Azeez Ojulari. Since his return in Week 13, the Giants’ sack average has gone from 1.9 sacks per game to a phenomenal 4.75 sacks per game. Ojulari’s individual stat line during this time? 16 pressures, 7 hurries, 4 quarterback hits, and five sacks.
Just One More Win
The biggest silver lining here, though, was that despite the loss, the Giants’ playoff hopes are no worse off than they were prior to the game. With the Seattle Seahawks losing to Kansas City, the Lions losing to the Panthers, and the 49ers beating the Commanders, none of the Giants’ closest rivals gained any ground.
Due to this, the clinching scenario for the Giants this coming week against the Colts is simple, win and you’re in. Otherwise it’s a case of scoreboard watching and hoping that the following happens:
Seattle loss + Washington loss or
Seattle loss + Detroit loss + Green Bay loss or tie or
Washington loss + Detroit loss + Green Bay loss